Unbeaten Run Continues – But Goal Scoring Still an Issue: Watford Report & Ratings (and Happy Invincibles Day)

The Invincibles: Never to be Equalled

Arsenal’s dominance over Watford at The Emirates yesterday should have seen us ‘home and hosed’ with half an hour to spare, but in the end we endured some nervous late moments before claiming the three points.

There were plenty of pluses: the unbeaten run now stretches to 10 games in the Premier League and Carabao Cup; we kept another clean sheet; Ainsley Maitland-Niles had a good game filling in for the injured Thomas Partey and most of our players put in a high quality shift.

But a nagging concern over our ability to take our chances when they come continues to haunt this team and potentially threatens to derail the good work Mikel Arteta has been doing since the disastrous start to the season.

The win moved us up to fifth in the table, six points behind the leaders, Chelsea, and only three points off second place. But if you rearranged the table simply by the metric of “goals scored” we would be in 10th place behind the likes of Everton, Palace and Villa.

Obviously the figures are skewed by the fact we failed to score at all in the opening three league games, and it’s good that our new defensive solidity means we do not have to keep scoring large numbers of goals to win games, but there’s no doubt we could be more efficient in front of goal.

Yesterday, for example, we missed another penalty and we had other opportunities that a more clinical team would have put away.

The chief culprit was the captain, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. I don’t want to be too hard on him because – for one thing – his seven goals in 10 games so far this season is hardly a poor return.

However, he should have definitely added one (and more likely two) to his tally against Watford. The missed penalty was a poor effort and follows on from his equally poor penalty against Aston Villa. In the latter case he was able to spare his blushes by knocking in the rebound, but there was no such luck yesterday.

It’s clear to me that Auba should not be taking the pens, particularly when Lacazette is on the pitch. Across his career Aubameyang has scored 30 penalties and missed 11 – a successful conversion rate of 73%. Lacazette, by comparison, has scored 30 from the spot and missed three – a conversion rate of 91%.

Surely it’s a no-brainer to let the Frenchman step up and take the spot kicks from now on? I hope El Patron has sufficient cojones to lay down the law with his captain in regard to this issue.

The other chance for an Auba goal yesterday came early on in an incident where we got the ball in the net courtesy of Saka, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.

Maitland-Niles pulled some great moves around the edge of the Watford box, culminating in a clever pass in to Lacazette. Laca got the ball across goal only for Foster, the Watford ‘keeper, to palm the ball to Auba on the edge of the six yard box. It was begging to be hit first time (or to be quickly controlled and fired home on the second touch) but Auba miscontrolled it with a contact that also meant Saka was offside when he tucked it away.

All in all it wasn’t Auba’s best day in an Arsenal shirt, but that’s the kind of striker he is – he can have seemingly poor games and still pop up with a goal at a vital moment. (He almost managed it late on yesterday when he was millimetres away from getting on the end of an Odegaard pass into the Watford penalty area). He remains the best attacker at the club and he’s exactly the sort of man you want on the pitch when we face Liverpool in our next league fixture.

Elsewhere I though the defence was excellent once again. White and Gabriel seem to really complement each other’s game and the two fullbacks were solid when called on and adventurous when opportunities arose.

There had been concern before kick off when it was apparent Thomas was not in the squad. He was rested because of a tight groin. Given his injury history with us that was a sensible call.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles came in as his replacement (getting the nod ahead of the more experienced Elneny) and had a really good game. He showed plenty of skill on the ball to create opportunities going forward but was also intelligent and disciplined about his positioning when Watford had the ball.

He created one clear chance, made 10 out of 12 successful passes in the attacking third, had two successful dribbles, made eight ball recoveries (the most of any Arsenal player) and won five out of five tackles.

This performance follows on from an excellent game against Leeds in the Carabao Cup (where I rated him as Man of the Match) and reveals a significant uptick in AMN’s trajectory. He has a real chance to make himself part of the Arsenal story this season and I hope he does so.

Saka, Laca and Smith Rowe all put in decent performances, the latter on hand to stroke home the only goal of the game and secure the points.

Finally a word about the referee. It was a tough game to handle because it was marred by countless fouls, particularly from the visitors whose plan seemed to be to break up our rhythm by whatever means they could. But how Kevin Friend allowed the ex Spud Danny Rose to avoid punishment for some awful fouls is a complete mystery. At one point, apparently, Arsenal as a whole had committed four fouls and received three yellow cards while Rose personally had committed four fouls and got away scot free.

His assault on Lacazette (that led to our penalty) would probably have been a red card incident for some refs and certainly a yellow card for most, but Rose must have naughty pictures of Kevin Friend hidden in a safe somewhere.

Now we have a long, boring international break before we resume league action against Liverpool, who were deservedly beaten yesterday by a buoyant West Ham. No doubt the Scousers will aim to bounce back strongly against us, but if they play the way did against the Irons we are more than capable of getting a result.

One pleasant side effect of the Liverpool loss – their first of the season – was that we can once again wish each other a HAPPY INVINCIBLES DAY!

Player Ratings

Ramsdale – 7

Quiet for most of the game but had to make a couple of smart saves late on. He also nearly cost us by coming out of his goal and misjudging the ball, leaving a goalscoring opportunity for Watford’s King from a tight angle. Fortunately the ball hit the side netting.

Tomayisu – 7

Another low-fuss, no-nonsense outing from the summer singing. He has made the RB position his own and that’s that.

White – 8 (MoTM)

Excellent in defence and capable of breaking the opposition lines when he surges forward.

Gabriel – 7.5

Did nothing wrong and his physicality was needed against a physically strong Watford team.

Tavares – 7

This lad is so comfortable on the ball and also has great recovery speed when he gets into difficulties.

Lokonga – 7

As reliable in MF as we’ve come to expect. With AMN having more licence to get forward it was important that Sambi remained disciplined and that’s exactly what he did.

Maitland-Niles – 7.5

As mentioned above, another good outing for AMN.

Saka – 7.5

Always probing from the right wing, always a threat: defenders must hate seeing him with the ball at his feet. Unlucky to have his goal ruled out for offside, although it was the correct call.

Lacazette – 7

A busy, intelligent performance.

Smith Rowe – 7.5

A little quieter than he can be, but he did lots of good work and got the all important goal.

Aubameyang – 6

Missed a pen and fluffed his lines a few times, but at least he was close to getting on the end of things at times.


Odegaard – 7

Came on in the 69th minute and slotted in well, creating a couple of good opportunities.

Elneny – 7

Although he only got 10 minutes (four regulation plus six stoppage) I thought Mo really got involved and helped see us home. He had several good moments to break up Watford moves.

Martinelli – N/A

Got a three minute run out.



21 Responses to Unbeaten Run Continues – But Goal Scoring Still an Issue: Watford Report & Ratings (and Happy Invincibles Day)

  1. Las says:

    First! 🙂

  2. Las says:

    Now I go and read the report! 🙂

  3. Las says:

    Cheers Rocky excellent report.
    Happy Invincibles Day 🙂 This is for Klopp: “It is actually much more harder going unbeaten for a full season than you might think.”
    I very much agree with your rating. Maybe one or two things like I would give 8 for AMN and 7,5 Tomi.
    To be honest, it was not a great win, not a big win but it was one hell of a win considering that this young team had to cope with the expectation. And they did. They forced themselves through the rabbit hole to find a way.
    We could have won with a bigger margin but our captain not buzzing with self-esteem. I hope he will find his magic shoes against L’pool. I would like to see us competitive against them.

  4. Pete the Thirst says:

    Can’t argue with that report Rocky. Nice read.

    We’re 2 points behind Liverpool with 20 less goal difference!

    I agree that Mainsley had a great game. He will be needed when Partey heads to the ACON.

    There are some tough games coming after the Interlull. They will be a true marker for our progress.

  5. RockyLives says:

    Mainsley 😀

    I’m going to steal that Pete

  6. fred1266 says:

    We post a question few days ago with who should partner partey

    Yesterday we got to see all the candidates play

    With AMN getting man of the match and again showing his diversity moving to Left flank at the end of the game

    Hopefully he is partey new partner where as I don’t like AMN as a CM since he candidates score nor pick a pass he just looks solid there who knows maybe he could be the holding at times and we could send partey forward

  7. LBG says:

    Thanks Rocky
    Lots of agreement. Pleased especially with Tomi at set pieces, free kicks and corners, putting himself in good positions and not afraid to take responsibility for clearances. Very few free headers for opposition from this back four.
    Think Laca was right to be a little downcast on substitution. Should have been Aubang, and should have been him on penalty.
    Happy Invincibles Day, AAers! Never matched.

  8. RC78 says:

    Great report as always.

    I would slightly differ with the ratings:
    Ramsdale: 6, his last moment madness almost cost us 2 points
    Tomy: 7.5, not sure how we can bring Bellerin back to the club after Tomy’s impressive displays so far…
    White: 8, an assured display
    Gabs: 7.5, another slid performance
    Tavares: 7, slowly proving to be a very good left full-back. Playing without fear.

    Sambi: 7, a good display but needs to be stronger when challenged on the ball
    AMN: 8, a great peformance all around. Good at recovering the ball and good usage of the ball as well going forward. Could the Partey-AMN axis be our best double pivot pair?

    Saka: 7.5, what a player. Just missing a goal or an assist to cap a very good day at the office.
    Laca: 7.5, another good performance. Defenders really have a hard time defending him because he can drop so deep and yet also make the right moves in and around the box.
    ESR: 7.5. Another goal and performance with purpose. May he keep his scoring boots on.

    Auba: 5. A missed PK, few missed opportunities and an offside touch on a goal promised to Odegaard…At least he is positioning himself well.

    Arteta: 7.5.

    I would give Ben Foster a 7.5 as well because he did well for Watford. As mentioned in previous posts, I would not mind having him as a back-up GK as we should plan life without Leno…

    Now it terms of losers:
    1. Pepe – with Saka, ESR and Laca playing so well, not sure he can challenge for a starting berth anymore…His days with us may be numbered?

    2. Odegaard – he is definitely a back up player now. Can’t play as part of the double pivot and cannot play on the wings either. Laca being in good form and ESR being more decisive, he better get used to the bench

    3. Holding – seems like being a starter in the EPL will be hard for him with White-Gabs proving to be solid. Same goes for Mari but really, he was always more a utility player than a starter.

    4. Leno – despite his mad decision in the last minutes, Ramsdale was overall very reliable during the game and has taken the Nr.1 jersey for now…

    5. Xhaka – seems replaceable in the end…Sambi and AMN have played well in his position…

    6. Wenger – Arteta now has a better winning rate than him after 100 games BUT Arteta still needs to deliver regular Top 4 and silverware.

    COYG! Thanks Rocky!

  9. Pete the Thirst says:

    @Rocky I haven’t copyrighted Mainsley, so go with it!

    Mainsley Painting Tiles – A one stop shop for all your ceramic decorations

  10. LBG says:

    Want reassurance that Bellerin, Xhaka will not be back myself.
    Cash in on Elneny, Pepe, Soares Leno, and any of the other loanees with exception of Azeez, Ballard and, if it were possible, Mavrapanos ( but suspect the option to buy will be taken up.)
    Holding, Chambers and, for the moment Mari, will be useful squad players with injuries always possible, and African Cup demands pending.
    Disagree with you regarding BOdegaard who can still be useful against teams with some attacking intent in the No 10 position. This said, hope Laca is still with us after Christmas but doubt it, and I’m afraid I would sell Aubameyang sooner and bring in a new centre forward.
    Hope for an injury- free Interlull and an England win in the T20 World Cup.

  11. RC78 says:

    LBG – There is a very upsetting rumour sending Lacazette to Man City but bringing Vlahovic to AFC…Valhovic is a 21 years old CF from Serbia playing for Fiorentina. They are talking 80 Mln EUR transfer for Vlahovic…He is highly regarded acrosss Europe but he is not (yet) in the same league as players like Haaland for example. He provided a good aerial threat but also good link-up play and is quite a physical player…

    What do you make of Saliba? Shall we cash in on him or give him a chance? Saliba is now captaining the Under-21 French squad and Guendouzi is part of the senior squad…

  12. RC78 says:

    Meanwhile – Smith-Rowe got his first call up with England 🙂

    Ramsdale, Saka and Smith-Rowe in the England squad…not bad 🙂

    Missing White and AMN now 🙂

  13. RC78 says:

    We just need White, AMN to join the England fold and a player like Balogun to really flourish so that we have one AFC player on every line in the England squad:

    Ramsdale – White – AMN – Saka, ESR – Balogun

  14. fred1266 says:

    Arteta has more wins just 2 but the amount of loses its a lot

    So no real comparison

  15. fred1266 says:

    Ha bellerin ent going a place

  16. LB says:

    He’s fat
    He’s round
    He weighs 400 pounds.
    Danny Rose, Danny Rose.

    Sorry to bring the blog down to such a base level.

    Great read Rocky, always appreciated.

  17. LBG says:

    I mentioned Vhalovic last week to Rocky, including all that you say today!!
    As I also said, I prefer a proven genuine centre forward already in the Premier League. Quick, good in the air, and able to hold the ball up front on his own. Calvert- Lewin fits the bill for me currently. Young and England International, in a team going backwards.
    I have not changed my mind at any time regarding Saliba. I believe Mikel made the right decision about him, and he will return next season both physically and tactically a more mature player, and likewise ” more grown up” in his attitude to his profession. I believe he will end up our right sided centre back alongside Gabriel, and, although RA has recently claimed the thought for his own, said, when White signed he was the perfect ” holder” potentially in front of a back four to release Partey ( and now even Sami) to play the more forward creative role I think he is capable of.
    I have also never changed my opinion of Guendouzi. His character is not suited to us or the Premier League, and I dont believe he will fulfill his obvious potential skill wise even in France.

  18. RC78 says:

    LBG –
    Calvert-Lewin would not be a bad option indeed to replace Lacazette. There is also a case for other English strikers like Toney, Watkins, Bamford but then again, we do have Balogun and even Nketiah…Regarding Vlahovic, he is clearly a very good player in the making but at 80 Mln, I am not sure…

    As for White, I think he should remain as CB. He is forming a good partnership with Gabriel and now we have to make tough decisions on:
    – Saliba: Keep or sell
    – Mavro: Keep or sell
    – Holding: Keep or sell
    – Mari: Keep or sell

    We could have 5 CBs next year: White, Gabs, Saliba, Holding and Mari for example but we cannot keep 6 for sure, especially if we keep Chambers…

    As for Guendouzi, everyone in the Ligue 1 is surprised at his level in terms of his physicality (repeating his runs forward and coming back to defend) and his passing ability. Deschamps is choosing him over a player like Nkunku who is having another great season at Leipzig for now, which may mean something…

  19. VP says:

    Hi All and nice post Rocky
    I am very pleased with our unbeaten streak.
    onwards and upwards

  20. Aaron says:

    You summed it up very well.

    Enjoy our runs of wins but our xG says 10th.

    Will we fall back to earth with a crash or just the usual long slow decline?

    Need to increase goals scored from open play or the team will lose many points to draws or losses.

    Let’s see if galaxy brain can do it it, still have strong doubts, however I like the trajectory the side is currently on.

    Harder games await!!

  21. RC78 says:

    Aaron – clearly we need to improve our goal scoring record but I d say that we also need to improve our defending as we have in the last few games (except maybe one or two halves) conceded quite some chances…

    If I were Arteta, I would maybe also put Auba on the bench to start with Martinelli. Martinelli wont play for more than 60 minutes so Auba will be on the fold and maybe that will give him the necessary boost… I think it will put some heat on our captain to find his scoring boots soon and the PK duties shall fall to Laca or Saka in the meantime.

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